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Exploring books that have been translated from a different language can lead to a really special reading experience. The skill of a translator is of course key, they need to be able to truly feel the book in order to successfully and seamlessly translate it. A great translator has the ability to make you feel right at home, while also letting you experience the wonders of a different culture. These books all encourage you to discover the sense of a different place, so we invite you to step forward and broaden your horizons.
Take a fascinating and oh so readable journey into the darker side of life, where you need to be able to see in the dark to have an understanding of it. This is the second in the ‘Chastity Riley series’, the first book Blue Night was one of my favourites from last year, so I was waiting for this with huge anticipation, and I can confirm that Beton Rouge is another wonderfully compelling read. State Prosecutor Chastity Riley is teamed with a new partner after a manager of a German magazine is found unconscious in a cage suffering torture wounds. The chapter headings are little lightening bolts of fabulous. Simone Buchholz, with Rachel Ward as translator, creates in less than 200 pages the most taut, incredible intensity. I adore her writing as it takes you into the misty half world between lyrical beauty and raw, grim necessity. Beton Rouge is a killer read, original, unusual and yet I felt that a part of it, in fact a part of Chastity, lodged itself deeply within my soul, it’s quite simply fabulous.
A pithy, twisty, challenging tale with a cracking concept. After the murder of a teenage girl in a small Norwegian town, people start pointing the finger of blame at her former boyfriend. Back in 2015 author Thomas Enger had the idea for the book but wasn’t sure whether to head in the direction of writing it for young adults, or as adult crime fiction, his wife suggested both. The YA book came first in Norwegian, then Orenda picked up on the YA to Adult crossover and Thomas has written Inborn (in English). The prologue is two pages of chilling intrigue, allowing a glimpse of hope and possibility before it’s cut down. The chapters flick backwards and forwards in time, with ‘now’ set in court, and ‘then’ slipping inevitably forwards from the violence of the prologue through to the court date. Little spiky hooks of bait made my thoughts toss and turn. I questioned everyone, joined the towns people in their doubt, felt the pain, suspicion, uncertainty. The ending caught in my throat, piercing, then shattering my crime-sleuthing thoughts. Inborn is so very readable, it also provoked and sliced at my feelings, made me stop, made me think, it really is very clever indeed.
A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.
Sharpen your thoughts, and pay close attention as this is a fascinating, intricate and complex case. Top Dog follows on from Stockholm Delete, and can I suggest that you do start at the beginning of these two books, otherwise you will be playing major catchup as you are introduced to the many layers of characters. Set in Stockholm, an unlikely pairing continue to investigate a set of horrific crimes exploiting young girls. Author Jens Lapidus is a criminal defence lawyer, the authenticity of his world fully connects with the page. I slowly sank into the story, which as well as flinging heart in mouth moments in my path, was also capable of great subtlety. The translation is beautifully done by Alice Menzies, I felt entirely at home and yet fully aware of the fact that I was in a different country. I was wired and vigilant to changes as I read Top Dog, it really is a hard hitting, absolute wow of a read, I simply loved it.
A quirky, smirky, entertaining slice of fabulous. Covert ops detective Jan Nyman finds himself investigating a death in a holiday village in Finland and a rather striking lady just happens to be the suspect. I will admit to being rather excited about this novel, Antti Tuomainen’s last offering was the wonderful The Man Who Died which was shortlisted for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. The first paragraph of Palm Beach, Finland is beautifully written, it quite literally slapped my attention and I settled in with something approaching ghoulish glee! A wonderful wave of dark humour rolls through this novel gathering raised eyebrows and snorts. The cast increases, the action builds, and oh how my tummy and mind tied themselves in knots as the story spun in ever decreasing eccentric circles. I just want to applaud David Hackston as I completely forgot I was reading a translation. I thoroughly, completely and totally recommend Palm Beach, Finland, do grab yourself a copy and pop a do not disturb sign on your door!
Smart, taut and fabulous, Trap really does deliver a first-class read. Following quite beautifully on from Snare (and yes you do need to have read Snare first) can I just mention the covers, they are stunning in their simplicity and how they link to the novels. Set in Reykjavik just after the volcanic eruption in 2011, Sonja discovers that running away doesn’t solve anything, but declaring war can be just as deadly. Lilja Sigurdardottir ensures sharp shocks of chapters hit with increasing energy. The translation by Quentin Bates is again so fully complete, I existed in this Icelandic world without question. My feelings hovered with regards to the characters, swooping one way and then the other, which felt entirely right, as innocence and guilt are so often two sides of the same coin. A short book Trap may be, it’s also a towering powerhouse of read and I gobbled it up in one intense sitting. Please Orenda, may we have some more?!
Hippie is a spiritual journey of self-discovery. This autobiographical account of Paulo Coelho’s nomadic past is written in the third person as if it’s fiction, with the author drawing upon his own experiences on the hippie trail in the 1970s. The book focuses on a young Brazilian, Paulo, and his Dutch companion, Karla, who are travelling on a Magic Bus heading to Kathmandu, trying to define their place in the world. The author also gives voices to other characters, reflecting the diversity of those looking for adventure, spiritual enlightenment or an alternative lifestyle with few restrictions. At times, Hippie reads like a literary travelogue through Europe towards Nepal, with its vivid descriptions of people, places and cultures, evoking a great sense of place. And at other times, it reads like a guidebook of self-exploration. This is a book about liberation and freedom, set at a time where there was no political correctness to stifle people’s thoughts, actions and choices. Hippie is a nostalgic look at the drug-fuelled hippie culture, but also a snapshot of past memories that have shaped the author’s writing and outlook on life. Certainly an intriguing read.
Well, what a humdinger of a book this turned out to be. A mash-up of dystopian, futuristic fiction and Nordic police thriller, with a dash of the supernatural. It’s set 50 years in the future in Eldisvik, a Scandinavian city where you’re all right if you’re in the Free Zone, but venture outside its borders and you’re in increasing danger (and even the police won’t enter the Double Red Zone without some serious protection). The initial premise of the story is that a Decoy (sort of undercover agents aided by packs of vixens – I know, I know . . . .) has gone rogue and the police, led by Nero Cavello, have to investigate. There’s a second storyline of a young student, Bruno, who is kidnapped by the rogue Decoy who wants to use Bruno’s telepathic abilities. Alongside all this, we have political chicanery, corruption and possible infiltration of the police. Oh, and Nero also has telepathic abilities, just like Bruno. The descriptions of the technological advances felt realistic – just advanced enough from where we are now to feel futuristic, but not unbelievably so. However, I really wanted to know how things had got to be as they are. Why have the police lost control of the outer zones? What’s happened in the rest of the world? There are a few hints of catastrophes elsewhere – the city seems to be a real multi-cultural mix and there are references to lots of people being refugees. It took me a while to really engage with the book – there were too many things going on and I could have done with the characters being fleshed out more; I didn’t feel particularly invested in any of them until quite a way in. However, the characters eventually came to life and once that happened the story fairly hurtled along. The ending was a real cliff-hanger – rather too much so for my taste. Of course, you don’t want all the loose ends neatly tied up, otherwise, why read the rest of the series? But hardly any questions at all were answered. Nevertheless, I’m well and truly hooked. It’s rare that I reach the end of a book shouting “Oh no” as I realise it’s finished. I look forward to my next visit to Eldisvik. Bernadette Scott, A LoveReading Ambassador
Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn't leave an address. She doesn't answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum's investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal... Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world's foremost thriller writers.
April 2018 Book of the Month Oh wow, this is a slicing, chilling, whammy of a read that has left me reeling. In 2015 an actress is abducted, the case has all the hallmarks of a murderer who was locked up in Broadmoor ten years previously, then a body appearing to link to the abduction and murders is found in Sweden. The second in the 'Roy and Castells' series continues with sharp, fast-paced drama. I really do recommend starting at the beginning with the fabulous ‘Block 46’, you need to get to know the characters, as to try to step into the middle of the storyline would be almost impossible. The translation is spot on, at no time did I stop to consider this originated in a different language. Set in two countries, and two storylines, with one story steadily advancing through the years, I found myself on full alert and at times racing to keep up. There are sections that are so horrifyingly descriptive they are almost impossible to read, yet the story is so gripping, it is impossible not to. Johana Gustawsson delivers morsel upon morsel of information, and stomach-churning shivers raced down my body. An inkling of what is happening zipped into my thoughts, however I couldn’t have even begun to imagine the final outcome. ‘Keeper’ isn’t an easy read, it isn’t meant to be, it is thought-provoking, challenging, and an absolute knock-out…I’m still in shock - highly recommended.
This is a powerhouse of a read, it will tempt and cajole you into reading faster and faster, the last page will whisper seductively to you but hold on firmly to your horses and enjoy the wild ride. The husband and wife writers that are the team behind Lars Kepler have penned the most captivating characters; the mainstays of the detective team are a little flawed, even a little menacing and the Sandman himself is shockingly intimidating and formidable. The story could easily have run out of control but is kept tenaciously on its thrilling path and keeps up the suspense until the very last page. This, the fourth in the Joona Linna series is hang on to the edge of your seat stuff and an absolute knockout.
March 2018 Book of the Month What a beautifully written, captivating, and soulful read this is. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly transferred, begins to investigate the death of a women found in fishing nets out at sea. Catherine Day leaves Montreal for a remote fishing village, looking for answers about her birth mother. The Gaspe Peninsula sits centre stage in the story, remote, set apart, and yet intimately connected to the sea. I immediately fell headlong into the story, the seamless translation encourages the words to join together, creating a vividly stunning picture. Catherine tells her own tale, having such personal access allows a connection, yet she still feels hidden from view. Other peoples thoughts tumble freely over the pages, yet they belong, they anchor the story. I felt that the author Roxanne Bouchard has a profound connection to the sea, she loves it, respects it, yet the immense power simmers, occasionally rages in the background. I quite simply adored ‘We Were the Salt of the Sea’, refreshingly different, unpredictable, yet deeply rich and touching, it became a part of me.